Key Publications

Scientific Papers

Maron, M., Quétier, F., Sarmiento, M., Ten Kate, K., Evans, M. C., Bull, J. W., ... & von Hase, A. (2023). ‘Nature positive’ must incorporate, not undermine, the mitigation hierarchy. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1-4.


Martine Maron, Fabien Quétier, Mariana Sarmiento, Kerry Ten Kate, Megan C Evans, Joseph W Bull, Julia PG Jones, Sophus OSE Zu Ermgassen, EJ Milner-Gulland, Susie Brownlie, Jo Treweek, Amrei von Hase


For the concept of nature positive to succeed as the lodestar for international action on biodiversity conservation, it must build upon lessons learned from the application of the mitigation hierarchy — or risk becoming mere greenwash.

The full text can be accessed here.  

White, T.*, Bromwich, T.*, Bang, A., Bennun, L., Bull, J. W., Clark, M., ... & Booth, H. (2023) The Nature Positive Journey for Business: A research agenda to enable private sector contributions to the global biodiversity framework. OSF Preprints. 10.31219/ 

*joint first authors. 


White T*, Bromwich T*, Bang A, Bennun L, Bull JW, Clark M, Milner-Gulland EJ, Prescott G, Starkey M, zu Ermgassen S, Booth H. 


The 2022 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework calls upon the private sector to take substantial action to mitigate its negative impacts on biodiversity and contribute towards nature recovery. The term ‘Nature Positive’ has gained traction in biodiversity conservation discourse to describe both a societal goal and the ambitions of individual organisations to halt and reverse nature loss. However, enabling businesses to contribute towards Nature Positive outcomes will require major shifts in the way businesses and society operate, and research that can help guide and prioritise business actions. As a group of researchers and consultants working at the interface between business and biodiversity, we propose a conceptual model through which private sector contributions to a Nature Positive future could be realised and use it to identify priority research questions. The key questions address: i) sectoral strategic options, ii) methods and approaches individual businesses can implement to inform these strategies, iii) systemic driving forces that influence private sector action, and iv) how outcomes are measured to deliver Nature Positive contributions. Collaborations between researchers, businesses and industry bodies are needed to co-design and implement research, where there is currently no coordinated approach to identify and fund priority research areas for Nature Positive themes. A clearly structured and prioritised research agenda is vital to guide effective, equitable and timely action by businesses.


The full text is available here

Baldwin-Cantello, W., Tickner, D., Wright, M., Clark, M., Cornelius, S., Ellis, K., ... & Young, L. (2023). The Triple Challenge: synergies, trade-offs and integrated responses for climate, biodiversity, and human wellbeing goals. Climate Policy, 1-18.

Authors: William Baldwin-Cantello, Dave Tickner, Mark Wright, Michael Clark, Stephen Cornelius, Karen Ellis, Angela Francis, Jaboury Ghazoul, James E. Gordon, Nathanial Matthews, E.J. Milner-Gulland, Pete Smith, Simon Walmsley, Lucy Young

Abstract: Humankind faces a Triple Challenge: averting dangerous climate change, reversing biodiversity loss, and supporting the wellbeing of a growing population. Action to address each of these issues is inherently dependent on action to address the others. Local, national, and international policy goals on climate change, biological diversity, and human wellbeing have been set. Current implementation measures are insufficient to meet these goals, but the Triple Challenge can still be met if governments, corporations, and other stakeholders take a holistic perspective on management of land and waters. To inform this effort, we identify a set of priority policy responses drawn from recent international assessments that, whilst not being the only potential solutions, can form the core of such a holistic approach. We do this through an iterative process using three methodological approaches: (i) structured literature review; (ii) deliberative expert analysis; and (iii) wider consultation, before synthesizing into this paper. Context-appropriate implementation of responses will be needed to capitalize on potential policy synergies and to ensure that unavoidable trade-offs between management of land and waters for climate mitigation, biodiversity restoration, and human wellbeing outcomes are made explicit. We also set out four approaches to managing trade-offs that can promote fair and just transitions: (1) social and economic policy pivoting towards ‘inclusive wealth’; (2) more integrated policymaking across the three areas; (3) ‘Triple Challenge dialogues’ among state and non-state actors; and (4) a new research portfolio to underpin (1), (2), and (3).

Click here to access the full publication. 

Booth, H., Milner-Gulland, E., McCormick, N., & Starkey, M. (2023, June 9). Operationalizing transformative change for business in the context of nature positive.

Authors: Booth H, Milner-Gulland EJ, McCormick N. & Starkey M.

Abstract: The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) sets a specific target for reducing the private sector’s negative impacts on biodiversity and increasing positive impacts, as part of overall efforts to halt and reverse biodiversity loss within the coming decade. In parallel, ‘nature positive’ is emerging as an inclusive and ambitious rallying call that aligns with the GBF. Yet tinkering with business as usual will not deliver these ambitions; calls for transformative change in business's relationship with biodiversity are increasingly strong. However there remains a lack of clarity on how to operationalize transformative change in the context of nature positive, particularly how to develop meaningful actions and measurable targets. This gap risks confusion, greenwashing, and failure to achieve global goals. This article aims to fill this gap, by drawing on existing literature on social change to offer a practical framework for understanding and operationalizing transformative change for business and biodiversity. We define and describe the role of transformative change towards a nature positive ambition and summarize the different types and scales of transformative actions that companies could take into a simple framework, which we illustrate with case studies from food retail and mining. This framework could be used to help companies develop and plan transformative actions, set targets, and monitor progress over time, as well as hold them accountable to ‘transformative’ claims; however, it can only contribute to a nature positive commitment if it is implemented in parallel with meaningful actions to avoid, reduce, restore, and compensate for contemporary attributable impacts. We invite companies to test our framework for their own planning, decision-making and disclosures, to advance meaningful application of transformative actions towards delivery of transformative change for a nature positive future.

Click here to access the publication

Taylor, I., Bull, J.W., Ashton, B. et al. Nature-positive goals for an organization’s food consumption. Nat Food 4, 96–108 (2023).

Authors: I. TaylorJ. W. BullB. AshtonE. BiggsM. ClarkN. GrayH. M. J. GrubC. Stewart & E. J. Milner-Gulland 

Abstract: Organizations are increasingly committing to biodiversity protection targets with focus on ‘nature-positive’ outcomes, yet examples of how to feasibly achieve these targets are needed. Here we propose an approach to achieve nature-positive targets with respect to the embodied biodiversity impacts of an organization’s food consumption. We quantify these impacts using a comprehensive database of life-cycle environmental impacts from food, and map exploratory strategies to meet defined targets structured according to a mitigation and conservation hierarchy. By considering the varying needs and values across the organization’s internal community, we identify a range of targeted approaches towards mitigating impacts, which balance top-down and bottom-up actions to different degrees. Delivering ambitious nature-positive targets within current constraints will be challenging, particularly given the need to mitigate cumulative impacts. Our results evidence that however committed an organization is to being nature positive in its food provision, this is unachievable in the absence of systems change. 

Click here to access the publication

Rampling, E. et al. (2023) Improving the ecological outcomes of compensatory conservation by addressing governance gaps: a case study of Biodiversity Net Gain in England. OSF Preprints. 10.31219/

Authors: Emily Rampling, Sophus zu Ermgassen, Isobel Hawkins, Joseph W. Bull

Abstract: Biodiversity compensation policies have emerged around the world to address the ecological harms of infrastructure expansion, but they have historically experienced weak compliance. The English government is introducing a requirement that all new infrastructure developments demonstrate they achieve a Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG). Previous research has highlighted governance gaps that risk undermining the policy’s ecological outcomes, as well as exploring the risks caused by fundamental capacity constraints in regulators, but the magnitude of their effects on the policy’s potential impacts on biodiversity remains unexplored. We collated BNG information from all new major developments across six early adopter councils from 2020-2022. We quantified the proportion of the biodiversity outcomes promised under BNG which are at risk of non-compliance, explored the variation in strategies that developments use to meet their biodiversity liabilities, and quantified the occurrence of simple errors in the biodiversity metric calculations submitted by project proponents. Large developments and energy infrastructure were more likely to meet their liability within their own development footprint, and small developments more likely to purchase offsets. We estimate that 27% of all biodiversity units fall within governance gaps that expose them to a high risk of non-compliance. Should these units instead be delivered through the off-site biodiversity offsetting market – which is associated with relatively more robust governance mechanisms – we estimate that the demand for offsets could rise by a factor of four, increasing the financial contributions generated by BNG for conservation activities on private land. Lastly, we find that 21% of applications contained conspicuous errors in their BNG calculations, half of which have already been accepted by councils, hinting at under-resourcing in councils assessing developments. Our findings demonstrate that resourcing and governance shortfalls risk undermining the policy’s effectiveness at halting biodiversity loss and require addressing to ensure the policy benefits nature.

Click here to access the full publication.

White, T. B., et al. (2023). Principles for using evidence to improve biodiversity impact mitigation by business. Business Strategy and the Environment. doi:10.1002/bse.3389

Authors: T. B. WhiteS. O. PetrovanL. A. BennunT. ButterworthA. P. ChristieH. DowneyS. B. HunterB. R. JobsonS. O. S. E. zu Ermgassen & W. J. Sutherland

Abstract: There is an increasing expectation on the private sector to address biodiversity impacts and contribute towards global conservation goals. Appropriate evidence use can help businesses avoid biodiversity losses and realise gains, reduce ineffective or suboptimal action, whilst minimising biodiversity-related risks and securing opportunities from engaging with biodiversity. We review the status of evidence-based action in the private sector, where previous studies have identified concerning trends, and explore the barriers that may currently be hindering practice. To learn from this, and improve the status quo, we propose a set of principles for evidence-based biodiversity impact mitigation. We outline tools and resources that can help businesses move towards evidence-based practice and achieve each of these principles. Meeting these principles would improve the biodiversity outcomes from businesses' biodiversity related actions. However, for business action to contribute more fully to global conservation goals, broader political and socio-economic issues also need addressing.

Click here to access the publication


Milner-Gulland, E.J. Don’t dilute the term Nature Positive. Nat Ecol Evol 6, 1243–1244 (2022).

Author: E.J. Milner Gulland 

No abstract available

Click here to access the publication

Narain, D., et al. (2022). A step change needed to secure a nature-positive future—Is it in reach?. One Earth5(6), 589-592.

Authors: Narain, D., Bull, J. W., Alikhanova, S., Evans, M. C., Markham, R., & Maron, M.

Abstract/Summary: The 1972 Stockholm Conference put environmental protection on the global agenda for the first time. But since then, biodiversity losses and increasing threats have outpaced the conservation response. A step change is needed to reverse this trend and will require scaled-up action across society, including from governments, businesses, and financial institutions.

Click here to access the full publication. 

Zu Ermgassen SOSE, et al. (2022) Are corporate biodiversity commitments consistent with delivering ‘nature-positive’ outcomes? A review of ‘nature-positive’ definitions, company progress and challenges. Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 379, Part 2, 2022,134798,

Authors: Sophus O.S.E. zu Ermgassen, Michael Howard, Leon Bennun, Prue F.E. Addison, Joseph W. Bull, Robin Loveridge, Edward Pollard, Malcolm Starkey

Abstract: There are growing calls for businesses to implement ‘nature-positive’ strategies. Convergence around a precise definition is now needed. We review definitions of ‘nature-positive’, highlight differences between ‘nature-positive’ and previous iterations of organizational biodiversity strategies (e.g. net positive impact) and propose four key elements for ‘nature-positive’ strategies: 1) demonstrating positive biodiversity outcomes across the entire value chain (“scope”); 2) buy-in throughout the entire organization (“mainstreaming”); 3) integrated consideration of different components of nature (e.g. both biodiversity and climate; “integration”); and 4) measurable outcomes against a fixed baseline aligned with overall societal goals (e.g. post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework; “ambition”). We analyse trends in biodiversity commitments of the Global Fortune 100 companies and firms that have made recent ‘net impact’ commitments, evaluating alignment with these elements and where possible assessing their evolution since 2016. Uptake of biodiversity commitments has increased since 2016, but with limited progress towards adopting measurable, time-bound commitments (an increase from 5 to 10/100 Fortune 100 firms from 2016 to 2021). We review barriers to business implementation of strategies that can deliver socially equitable and ‘nature-positive’ outcomes. Major improvements are needed in data availability and transparency, regulation and sector-wide coordination that creates level playing fields and prevents impact leakage. Transformative action is required to create production and consumption systems that actively enhance nature.

Click here to access the publication

zu Ermgassen, SOSE., Marsh, S., Ryland, K., Church, E., Marsh, R., & Bull, JW. (2021). Exploring the ecological outcomes of mandatory biodiversity net gain using evidence from early‐adopter jurisdictions in England. Conservation Letters14(6), e12820.

Authors: Sophus O. S. E. zu Ermgassen, Sally Marsh, Kate Ryland, Edward Church, Richard Marsh, Joseph W. Bull

Abstract: Net outcome-type biodiversity policies are proliferating globally as perceived mechanisms to reconcile economic development and conservation objectives. The UK government's Environment Bill will mandate that most new developments in England demonstrate that they deliver a biodiversity net gain (BNG) to receive planning permission, representing the most wide-ranging net outcome type policy globally. However, as with many nascent net-outcome policies, the likely outcomes of mandatory BNG have not been explored empirically. We assemble all BNG assessments (accounting for ∼6% of England's annual housebuilding and other infrastructure) submitted from January 2020 to February 2021 in six early-adopter councils who are implementing mandatory no net loss or BNG requirements in advance of the national adoption of mandatory BNG, and analyze the aggregate habitat changes proposed. Our sample is associated with a 34% reduction in the area of nonurban habitats, generally compensated by commitments to deliver smaller areas of higher quality habitat years later in the development project cycle. Ninety-five percent of biodiversity units delivered in our sample come from habitats within or directly-adjacent to the development footprint managed by the developers. However, we find that these gains fall within a governance gap whereby they risk being unenforceable, a challenge that is shared with other net outcome type policies implemented internationally.

Click here to access the full publication. 

Milner-Gulland EJ, et al. (2021) Four steps for the Earth: mainstreaming the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. One Earth, 4,1, 75-87.

Authors: E.J. Milner-Gulland, Prue Addison, William N.S. Arlidge, Julia Baker, Hollie Booth , Thomas Brooks, Joseph W. Bull, Michael J. Burgass, Jon Ekstrom, Sophus O.S.E. zu Ermgassen, L. Vincent Fleming, Henry M.J. Grub, Amrei von Hase, Michael Hoffmann, Jonathan Hutton, Diego Juffe-Bignoli, Kerry ten Kate, Joseph Kiesecker, Noëlle F. Kümpel, Martine Maron & James E.M. Watson.

Abstract: The upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting, and adoption of the new Global Biodiversity Framework, represent an opportunity to transform humanity's relationship with nature. Restoring nature while meeting human needs requires a bold vision, including mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in society. We present a framework that could support this: the Mitigation and Conservation Hierarchy. This places the Mitigation Hierarchy for mitigating and compensating the biodiversity impacts of developments (1, avoid; 2, minimize; 3, restore; and 4, offset, toward a target such as "no net loss" of biodiversity) within a broader framing encompassing all conservation actions. We illustrate its application by national governments, sub-national levels (specifically the city of London, a fishery, and Indigenous groups), companies, and individuals. The Mitigation and Conservation Hierarchy supports the choice of actions to conserve and restore nature, and evaluation of the effectiveness of those actions, across sectors and scales. It can guide actions toward a sustainable future for people and nature, supporting the CBD's vision.

Click here to access the publication

Maron, M., et al. (2021). Setting robust biodiversity goals. Conservation Letters14(5), e12816.

Authors: Martine Maron, Diego Juffe-Bignoli, Linda Krueger, Joseph Kiesecker, Noëlle F. Kümpel, Kerry ten Kate, E.J. Milner-Gulland, William N. S. Arlidge, Hollie Booth, Joseph W. Bull, Malcolm Starkey, Jonathan M. Ekstrom, Bernardo Strassburg, Peter H. Verburg, James E. M. Watson

Abstract: The new global biodiversity framework (GBF) being developed under the Convention on Biological Diversity must drive action to reverse the ongoing decline of the Earth's biodiversity. Explicit, measurable goals that specify the outcomes we want to achieve are needed to set the course for this action. However, the current draft goals and targets fail to set out these clear outcomes. We argue that distinct outcome goals for species, ecosystems, and genetic diversity are essential and should specify net outcomes required for each. Net outcome goals such as “no net loss” do, however, have a controversial history, and loose specification can lead to perverse outcomes. We outline seven general principles to underpin net outcome goal setting that minimize risk of such perverse outcomes. Finally, we recommend inclusion of statements of impact in action targets that support biodiversity goals, and we illustrate the importance of this with an example from the draft GBF action targets. These modifications would help reveal the specific contribution each action would make to achieving the outcome goals and provide clarity on whether the successful achievement of action targets would be adequate to achieve the outcome goals and, in turn, the 2050 vision: living in harmony with nature.

Click here to access the full publication. 

Grace, M. K., et al. (2021). Testing a global standard for quantifying species recovery and assessing conservation impact. Conservation Biology35(6), 1833-1849.


Authors: Molly K Grace, H Resit Akçakaya, Elizabeth L Bennett, Thomas M Brooks, Anna Heath, Simon Hedges, Craig Hilton‐Taylor, Michael Hoffmann, Axel Hochkirch, Richard Jenkins, David A Keith, Barney Long, David P Mallon, Erik Meijaard, EJ Milner‐Gulland, Jon Paul Rodriguez, PJ Stephenson, Simon N Stuart, Richard P Young, Pablo Acebes, Joanna Alfaro‐Shigueto, Silvia Alvarez‐Clare, Raphali Rodlis Andriantsimanarilafy, Marina Arbetman, Claudio Azat, Gianluigi Bacchetta, Ruchi Badola, Luís MD Barcelos, Joao Pedro Barreiros, Sayanti Basak, Danielle J Berger, Sabuj Bhattacharyya, Gilad Bino, Paulo AV Borges, Raoul K Boughton, H Jane Brockmann, Hannah L Buckley, Ian J Burfield, James Burton, Teresa Camacho‐Badani, Luis Santiago Cano‐Alonso, Ruth H Carmichael, Christina Carrero, John P Carroll, Giorgos Catsadorakis, David G Chapple, Guillaume Chapron, Gawsia Wahidunnessa Chowdhury, Louw Claassens, Donatella Cogoni, Rochelle Constantine, Christie Anne Craig, Andrew A Cunningham, Nishma Dahal, Jennifer C Daltry, Goura Chandra Das, Niladri Dasgupta, Alexandra Davey, Katharine Davies, Pedro Develey, Vanitha Elangovan, David Fairclough, Mirko Di Febbraro, Giuseppe Fenu, Fernando Moreira Fernandes, Eduardo Pinheiro Fernandez, Brittany Finucci, Rita Földesi, Catherine M Foley, Matthew Ford, Michael RJ Forstner, Néstor García, Ricardo Garcia‐Sandoval, Penny C Gardner, Roberto Garibay‐Orijel, Marites Gatan‐Balbas, Irene Gauto, Mirza Ghazanfar Ullah Ghazi, Stephanie S Godfrey, Matthew Gollock, Benito A González, Tandora D Grant, Thomas Gray, Andrew J Gregory, Roy HA van Grunsven, Marieka Gryzenhout, Noelle C Guernsey, Garima Gupta, Christina Hagen, Christian A Hagen, Madison B Hall, Eric Hallerman, Kelly Hare, Tom Hart, Ruston Hartdegen, Yvette Harvey‐Brown, Richard Hatfield, Tahneal Hawke, Claudia Hermes, Rod Hitchmough, Pablo Melo Hoffmann, Charlie Howarth, Michael A Hudson, Syed Ainul Hussain, Charlie Huveneers, Hélène Jacques, Dennis Jorgensen, Suyash Katdare, Lydia KD Katsis, Rahul Kaul, Boaz Kaunda‐Arara, Lucy Keith‐Diagne, Daniel T Kraus, Thales Moreira de Lima, Ken Lindeman, Jean Linsky, Edward Louis Jr, Anna Loy, Eimear Nic Lughadha, Jeffrey C Mangel, Paul E Marinari, Gabriel M Martin, Gustavo Martinelli, Philip JK McGowan, Alistair McInnes, Eduardo Teles Barbosa Mendes, Michael J Millard, Claire Mirande, Daniel Money, Joanne M Monks, Carolina Laura Morales, Nazia Naoreen Mumu, Raquel Negrao, Anh Ha Nguyen, Md Nazmul Hasan Niloy, Grant Leslie Norbury, Cale Nordmeyer, Darren Norris, Mark O'Brien, Gabriela Akemi Oda, Simone Orsenigo, Mark Evan Outerbridge, Stesha Pasachnik, Juan Carlos Pérez‐Jiménez, Charlotte Pike, Fred Pilkington, Glenn Plumb, Rita de Cassia Quitete Portela, Ana Prohaska, Manuel G Quintana

Abstract: Recognizing the imperative to evaluate species recovery and conservation impact, in 2012 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) called for development of a “Green List of Species” (now the IUCN Green Status of Species). A draft Green Status framework for assessing species’ progress toward recovery, published in 2018, proposed 2 separate but interlinked components: a standardized method (i.e., measurement against benchmarks of species’ viability, functionality, and preimpact distribution) to determine current species recovery status (herein species recovery score) and application of that method to estimate past and potential future impacts of conservation based on 4 metrics (conservation legacy, conservation dependenceconservation gain, and recovery potential). We tested the framework with 181 species representing diverse taxa, life histories, biomes, and IUCN Red List categories (extinction risk). Based on the observed distribution of species’ recovery scores, we propose the following species recovery categories: fully recovered, slightly depleted, moderately depleted, largely depleted, critically depleted, extinct in the wild, and indeterminate. Fifty-nine percent of tested species were considered largely or critically depleted. Although there was a negative relationship between extinction risk and species recovery score, variation was considerable. Some species in lower risk categories were assessed as farther from recovery than those at higher risk. This emphasizes that species recovery is conceptually different from extinction risk and reinforces the utility of the IUCN Green Status of Species to more fully understand species conservation status. Although extinction risk did not predict conservation legacy, conservation dependence, or conservation gain, it was positively correlated with recovery potential. Only 1.7% of tested species were categorized as zero across all 4 of these conservation impact metrics, indicating that conservation has, or will, play a role in improving or maintaining species status for the vast majority of these species. Based on our results, we devised an updated assessment framework that introduces the option of using a dynamic baseline to assess future impacts of conservation over the short term to avoid misleading results which were generated in a small number of cases, and redefines short term as 10 years to better align with conservation planning. These changes are reflected in the IUCN Green Status of Species Standard.


Click here to access the full publication. 

Smith, T., et al. (2020). Biodiversity means business: Reframing global biodiversity goals for the private sector. Conservation Letters13(1), e12690. 

Authors: Thomas Smith, Lucy Beagley, Joseph Bull, E. J. Milner-Gulland, Matt Smith, Francis Vorhies, Prue F. E. Addison

Abstract: The Convention on Biological Diversity strategic goals direct the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity from global to local scales. Yet business’ role in meeting the strategic goals and being accountable for their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity are still not fully and coherently outlined. We demonstrate how business actions can contribute to the strategic goals using 10 publicly available case studies, covering businesses of various sizes, from multiple sectors, operating in different contexts. The case studies show some businesses already contribute to meeting biodiversity goals, often without realizing. We consider the drivers of business engagement with biodiversity; problems in interpreting the scale of impacts through corporate reporting; the implications for changing the way businesses engage with biodiversity goals; and how businesses could contribute more under the post-2020 framework for biodiversity. We call for increased business accountability for nature and that all in conservation - policymakers, practitioners, researchers, communities -do more to connect businesses with the strategic goals. Clearer business roles and responsibilities within international targets form a critical step toward the fundamental systems-level change required to reverse biodiversity loss.

Click here to access the full publication. 

Bull, J.W., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Addison, P.F.E. et al. (2020). Net positive outcomes for nature. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 4–7.

Authors: Joseph W. Bull, E. J. Milner-Gulland, Prue F. E. Addison, William N. S. Arlidge, Julia Baker, Thomas M. Brooks, Michael J. Burgass, Amy Hinsley, Martine Maron, John G. Robinson, Nik Sekhran, Samuel P. Sinclair, Simon N. Stuart, Sophus O. S. E. zu Ermgassen & James E. M. Watson

Abstract: The principle that nature conservation should be delivered alongside improvements to human well-being is well established in international policy ( It is therefore no surprise that widespread agreement emerged from the 2018 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD; COP14) and at the 2019 World Economic Forum that biodiversity must be conserved for the sake of both people and planet. Two questions dominated discussions at COP14: what activities can be counted towards meeting biodiversity conservation targets (throughout this Comment, we assume the nomenclature from the CBD); and can conservationists outline a global target, analogous to the global warming limit of 1.5–2.0 °C above pre-industrial levels, as a rallying point for biodiversity conservation? We consider that addressing these questions requires recognition that everything that results in desirable biodiversity outcomes (that is, retention or restoration) should count, and a shift of focus away from top-down global targets4 and towards finding a process-based framework within which to capture progress towards desired outcomes.

Click here to access the publication

Addison, P. F., et al. (2020). Bringing sustainability to life: A framework to guide biodiversity indicator development for business performance management. Business Strategy and the Environment29(8), 3303-3313.

Authors: Prue F.E. Addison, P. J. Stephenson, Joseph W. Bull, Giulia Carbone, Mark Burgman, Michael J. Burgass, Leah R. Gerber, Pippa Howard, Nadine McCormick, Louise McRae, Kim E. Reuter, Malcolm Starkey, E. J. Milner-Gulland

Abstract: Biodiversity loss is a critical sustainability issue, and companies are beginning to seek ways to assess their biodiversity performance. Initiatives to date have developed biodiversity indicators for specific business contexts (e.g., spatial scales—from site, to product, to regional, or corporate scales); however, many are not widely translatable across different contexts making it challenging for businesses seeking indicators to manage their biodiversity performance. By synthesising the steps of common conservation and business decision-making systems, we propose a framework to support more comprehensive development of quantitative biodiversity indicators, for a range of business contexts. The framework integrates experience from existing tried-and-tested conservation frameworks. We illustrate how our framework offers a pathway for businesses to assess their biodiversity performance and demonstrate responsible management by mitigating and reversing their biodiversity impacts and sustaining their dependencies, enabling them to demonstrate their contribution to emerging global biodiversity targets (e.g., Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 targets).

Click here to access the publication.  

Griffiths, V. F., et al. (2020). Incorporating local nature-based cultural values into biodiversity No Net Loss strategies. World Development128, 104858. 

Authors: Victoria F Griffiths, Joseph W Bull, Julia Baker, Mark Infield, Dilys Roe, Dianah Nalwanga, Achilles Byaruhanga, EJ Milner-Gulland

Abstract: Achieving “No Net Loss” (NNL) of nature from a development typically requires projects to follow a ‘mitigation hierarchy’, by which biodiversity losses are first avoided wherever possible, then minimised or remediated, and finally any residual impacts offset by conservation activities elsewhere. Biodiversity NNL can significantly affect people, including their cultural values. However, empirical research is lacking on how to incorporate impacts on cultural values of nature into NNL strategies. We use the Bujagali and Isimba Hydropower Projects and Kalagala Offset in Uganda as a case study to explore local people’s perceptions of the importance of cultural heritage to their wellbeing, how the developments affected their cultural heritage, and how these perceived impacts could be incorporated into NNL strategies. We sampled six villages experiencing different levels of hydropower development along the Victoria Nile River. Many river features, particularly rapids and waterfalls, are important cultural sites, associated with spirits and are worshipped by local communities. Spiritual beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, nature, and how cultural heritage is changing were frequently mentioned when respondents described cultural heritage. People perceived cultural heritage to be an important component of their wellbeing, but its importance differed between villages and socio-demographic groups. Men and the less poor found it to be very important, whilst people who had lived in the village for a short time and who had higher education levels found it less important. Respondents in villages where sacred sites are well-known or still intact described cultural heritage as being an important factor contributing to wellbeing. The study highlights the complex relationships between cultural heritage, nature and people’s wellbeing, and how essential it is to understand and account for cultural heritage when planning developments and associated offsets, if they are to be sustainable and fair to local people.

Click here to access the full publication. 

Griffiths, V. F., et al. (2019). No net loss for people and biodiversity. Conservation Biology33(1), 76-87.

Authors: Victoria F Griffiths, Joseph W Bull, Julia Baker, EJ Milner‐Gulland

Abstract: Governments, businesses, and lenders worldwide are adopting an objective of no net loss (NNL) of biodiversity that is often partly achieved through biodiversity offsetting within a hierarchy of mitigation actions. Offsets aim to balance residual losses of biodiversity caused by development in one location with commensurate gains at another. Although ecological challenges to achieve NNL are debated, the associated gains and losses for local stakeholders have received less attention. International best practice calls for offsets to make people no worse off than before implementation of the project, but there is a lack of clarity concerning how to achieve this with regard to people's use and nonuse values for biodiversity, especially given the inevitable trade-offs when compensating biodiversity losses with gains elsewhere. This is particularly challenging for countries where poor people depend on natural resources. Badly planned offsets can exacerbate poverty, and development and offset impacts can vary across spatial-temporal scales and by location, gender, and livelihood. We conceptualize the no-worse-off principle in the context of NNL of biodiversity, by exploring for whom and how the principle can be achieved. Changes in the spatial and temporal distribution of biodiversity-related social impacts of a development and its associated offset can lead to social inequity and negatively impact people's well-being. The level of aggregation (regional, village, interest group, household, and individual) at which these social impacts are measured and balanced can again exacerbate inequity in a system. We propose that a determination that people are no worse off, and preferably better off, after a development and biodiversity offset project than they were before the project should be based on the perceptions of project-affected people (assessed at an appropriate level of aggregation); that their well-being associated with biodiversity losses and gains should be at least as good as it was before the project; and that this level of well-being should be maintained throughout the project life cycle. Employing this principle could help ensure people are no worse off as a result of interventions to achieve biodiversity NNL.

Click here to access the full publication. 


Bull, J. W., et al. (2014). Importance of baseline specification in evaluating conservation interventions and achieving no net loss of biodiversity. Conservation biology28(3), 799-809.

Authors: Bull, J. W., Gordon, A., Law, E. A., Suttle, K. B., & Milner‐Gulland, E. J.

Abstract: There is an urgent need to improve the evaluation of conservation interventions. This requires specifying an objective and a frame of reference from which to measure performance. Reference frames can be baselines (i.e., known biodiversity at a fixed point in history) or counterfactuals (i.e., a scenario that would have occurred without the intervention). Biodiversity offsets are interventions with the objective of no net loss of biodiversity (NNL). We used biodiversity offsets to analyze the effects of the choice of reference frame on whether interventions met stated objectives. We developed 2 models to investigate the implications of setting different frames of reference in regions subject to various biodiversity trends and anthropogenic impacts. First, a general analytic model evaluated offsets against a range of baseline and counterfactual specifications. Second, a simulation model then replicated these results with a complex real world case study: native grassland offsets in Melbourne, Australia. Both models showed that achieving NNL depended upon the interaction between reference frame and background biodiversity trends. With a baseline, offsets were less likely to achieve NNL where biodiversity was decreasing than where biodiversity was stable or increasing. With a no-development counterfactual, however, NNL was achievable only where biodiversity was declining. Otherwise, preventing development was better for biodiversity. Uncertainty about compliance was a stronger determinant of success than uncertainty in underlying biodiversity trends. When only development and offset locations were considered, offsets sometimes resulted in NNL, but not across an entire region. Choice of reference frame determined feasibility and effort required to attain objectives when designing and evaluating biodiversity offset schemes. We argue the choice is thus of fundamental importance for conservation policy. Our results shed light on situations in which biodiversity offsets may be an inappropriate policy instrument

Click here to access the full publication. 



Bull, J. W., et al.  (2013). Biodiversity offsets in theory and practice. Oryx47(3), 369-380.

Authors: Bull, J. W., Suttle, K. B., Gordon, A., Singh, N. J., & Milner-Gulland, E. J.

Abstract: Biodiversity offsets are an increasingly popular yet controversial tool in conservation. Their popularity lies in their potential to meet the objectives of biodiversity conservation and of economic development in tandem; the controversy lies in the need to accept ecological losses in return for uncertain gains. The offsetting approach is being widely adopted, even though its methodologies and the overriding conceptual framework are still under development. This review of biodiversity offsetting evaluates implementation to date and synthesizes outstanding theoretical and practical problems. We begin by outlining the criteria that make biodiversity offsets unique and then explore the suite of conceptual challenges arising from these criteria and indicate potential design solutions. We find that biodiversity offset schemes have been inconsistent in meeting conservation objectives because of the challenge of ensuring full compliance and effective monitoring and because of conceptual flaws in the approach itself. Evidence to support this conclusion comes primarily from developed countries, although offsets are increasingly being implemented in the developing world. We are at a critical stage: biodiversity offsets risk becoming responses to immediate development and conservation needs without an overriding conceptual framework to provide guidance and evaluation criteria. We clarify the meaning of the term biodiversity offset and propose a framework that integrates the consideration of theoretical and practical challenges in the offset process. We also propose a research agenda for specific topics around metrics, baselines and uncertainty.

Click here to access the full publication. 

Reports & Briefings

E.J. Milner Gulland, David Obura, Mike Barrett (plus 2745 researchers from 125 countries who signed the statement). Act now to begin reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. A statement to CoP negotiators from researchers around the world. 16th December 2022.

Full text available here

zu Ermgassen et al (2022) An Open Letter to The Rt Hon Michael Gove, The Rt Hon George Eustice, and Tony Juniper: Ensuring that mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain fulfills its potential for nature recovery


Sophus zu Ermgassen, EJ Milner Gulland,  Prue Addison, Julia Baker, Ian Bateman, Joseph Bull, Julia P G Jones, Bob Smith, Jo Treweek

The full open letter can be accessed here

News & Blogs

A news article in the Guardian highlighting research led by Talitha Bromwich and Joe Bull assessing the biodiversity footprint of the organisation. See full article in the link below. 

What impact does the Guardian have on the natural world? | Carbon footprints | The Guardian

The article was written by Phoebe Weston, Julie Richards & Ben Murray.